Photographic Intent

Paphiopedilum Profile

Some folks may wonder why would I spend an entire year photographing flowers in my studio. It’s not because some public spaces with botanical subjects have been restricted; it’s primarily because I have a vision of what I want to create, how I need to do it and why I am comfortable when challenged on the best way to do accomplish this.

It would be virtually impossible to capture the image above on location. I started with a great subject (identified as Paph. Hilo Citron ‘Giant Doral’ x Pap. Spring Wolf ‘New Horizon’) from J&L Orchids in Easton, CT. We purchased the plant in mid-December of 2021. It took a few weeks to open and I was able to photograph it for several days. The tiny hairs on the lateral petals barely registered to my naked eye. Once the image was opened in Photoshop, I was simultaneously delighted and determined and it took over a week to edit this image. The tiny, semi-transparent hairs are, at print-resolution, only a few pixels wide. I painstaking created a mask zooming in between 200 & 500% with a soft brush always less than 10px, sometimes, just 1 px. There was quite a bit of back and forth! This file can be printed very large. It can also be animated in After Effects and placed in any composition because the mask is as close to perfect as possible.

My goal for 2020-2021 was to build a library of fifty flowers. Why 50? Why not? At present, I have near that number. A few images, including this one, naturally float to the top of my list.

Ultimately, my plan is to film rapidly moving water, ideally flowing vertically and then animate the flowers moving convincingly against the flowing water. Over the past few years I have identified several locations which are suitable to capture the water. This part of the plan has a steep learning curve, without even taking into consideration the additional components of ambient audio and music.

Over the years, some photographers including professors have also urged me to try photographing subjects other than flowers. I’ve resisted doing this. A few semesters ago, the professor and teaching assistant were discussing the size of a floral subject which I chose for a composite: one said it’s way too small” and the other said, “it’s way too big”. Another retired professor, said he “wanted to see the flower against a different background”. I offered to send him my 2 gb file so he could edit it the way he “wanted to see my photo”. One leader in a local workshop went so far as to say, “photograph flowers another way and use a piece of wallpaper as a background, don’t use photoshop, or do post-processing cropping”. I saw no evidence of some of her instructions to me in her own work.

It’s been very hard to pursue my vision and still participate in a formal learning environment. This is, of course, not surprising but somewhat disheartening. I need to keep working on this in my own way!

Flowers make me happy….very happy.  I am grateful to feel passion for something simple & beautiful that provides me so much joy and delights many people.

Art 264 | SCSU Fall 2020

We had our first class group critique today (virtually) and this was the best critique I’ve ever experienced for several reasons. Our professor, Jeremy Chandler, gave us a list of questions to answer for each group members work. We posted to a private group on FLICKR and put the images in an album. Each member had a chance to answer the question about the artist’s work being reviewed, then the prof commented. We methodically moved to the next question and repeated the process. This experience was totally professional and collaborative. Everyone seemed inspired and encouraged. Our teaching assistant Jim worked with Jeremy to make sure each small group session ran perfectly so we could devote the necessary time to cover all the questions properly.

I worked really hard on this assignment and went to the Duck Pond in Milford, CT at least six times in order to fulfill the assignment which was to master camera settings using shallow and deep depth of field, blurred and stopped motion and two optional artist’s choice images. My favorite images are in the right column. Everyone liked the top left and top right images most.

This Flickr album has more info about each image:

Please note: this is the first post I’ve done with the new block editor:)

thinking about the next project…

Clockwise from left:
  • this will be a perfect image to use for a digital montage composition as the ground base…reflecting the image horizontally several times will create an interesting expanse and serve as a backdrop for animating floral macros
  • starting to work with flowing water in order to understand it’s behavior and determine the way in which I prefer to photograph it moving forward
  • photographed this dense lavender rose in late afternoon on our front terrace against the (intentionally) painted green shingles & a dense birch tree filtered sun

    recipeThis is the same rose photographed in studio against a Slim Light Plano lightbox which makes it very easy to capture a nearly white background suitable for animating.

    These orchids, from White Plains Orchids, also will be suitable for animating against, perhaps a video capture of a waterfall.

Passionate about passion flowers…

todaysMoodFirst saw this species at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens over 10 years ago & have been intrigued & obsessed w/it ever since…so it’s great that my neighbor, Jean, planted a vine that is thriving:) Passion Flowers grow on  climbing vines..during their blooming season, the flowers start to open slowly…some varieties open later in the day and then close at night. So each day is a surprise. She had just watered the vine with an old fashioned large round sprinkler head. I just love photographing this flower.

After Effects

Have been dancing around learning this Adobe Program for years and the time has come for a deep dive. This semester, I plan to study video at Southern Connecticut State University. In preparation, I usually try to get my brain around an unfamiliar program and started working my way methodically through a Lynda course. Animation has always been challenging for me. I plan to photograph and isolate botanical subjects which are appealing and animate them again moving water. So the concept for the project is very well defined. Excited about learning!


I placed this passion flower on the slim light plano for backlight and added soft diffused front light. Stopped down and got close and although a complete challenge to isolate the tendrils, managed to capture the essence of the flower in all its glorious complexity. This one will be fun to animate.

Getting ready for animation…

For several years I’ve been thinking about animating flowers against moving water…the digital montage has always fascinated me. Historically, when photographing on location, I stop down the aperture, get close, and isolate the subject against the existing environment. My neighbor has a beautiful plant in bloom right now. However, this project requires a different approach and the challenge increases as the complexity of the flower increases. I have been building a library of my favorite “isolated” flowers and it’s time to include the passion flower. These were made on location and I placed a piece of white paper behind the plant. Next step may well be to ask my neighbor if I can snip one to bring home. To be continued.

Why I switched from Lightroom to CaptureOne…

About a year ago I met Douglas Dubler who taught a course at the New York Botanical Gardens – abstract floral photography inspired by Georgie O’Keefe. I invited several photo friends to come with me and we all had an amazing learning experience. At the start of this year, with Douglas’s firm encouragement, I finally switched from Lightroom to Capture One and although it took me some time to explore the program at this point I feel competent. My established workflow is to start a new catalog each year and I see no reason to change at this point.

I resist the impulse to use Lightroom for almost everything – now, just to set up & export an html web gallery which is not one of my core skills. As a part-time, non-matriculated grad student at Southern CT State University, we are standardized on Adobe Creative Cloud so it makes sense to continue to be familiar with the program and it’s updates. This semester I will be studying motion. Very exciting!

It seems that lots of folks recommend and feel comfortable working with the program they know, myself included. Over the years, I have worked with private clients who were interested in learning about Lightroom. It’s always a challenge to shift gears and rewarding when the result is worth the effort.

Over the next month, my short-term goal is to set up Capture One Catalogs for each previous year’s photos. I am excited about this new project.